Eric’s Sack of Mail: ‘King Kong,’ ‘The Ringer,’ ‘Narnia’

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It’s time once again to open Eric’s Sack of Mail and answer some e-mails I’ve gotten that aren’t insane or stupid enough to qualify as Angry Letters, but that do merit some discussion.

First, a reader named Don has this to say about my review of “King Kong”:

I take exception (you have never read an email that started with those words) with your comment at the bottom of your review indicating that the film contained only “mild profanity”. Multiple uses of the name of deity is not mild in my book or I hope in yours. I was very disappointed that the film, which I otherwise would have enjoyed, contained profane language.

You are correct, the film does contain profane references to deity. Alas, such language is common enough that to most viewers, it qualifies as “mild profanity” — i.e., it’s not the F-word, or any of the other “big” swear words that you can’t say on TV. I do apologize if you felt misled by my description.

Of course, everyone has different thresholds. Some people have no problem with the F-bomb, but if you take the Lord’s name in vain, they cringe. Others are the other way around. Others don’t care either way. My calling something “mild profanity” has little to do with my own personal preferences, and more to do with how it’s generally regarded by society as a whole.

Then a reader named Linda takes issue with something I said in my review of “The Ringer,” the new Johnny Knoxville movie where he pretends to be mentally handicapped. (He prepared for this role by living as a retarded person for 30 years.)

Linda cites this portion of the review —

“And it’s an interesting thing about those friends. You know how in movies, blind people are always supernaturally good at getting around and knowing their surroundings? And deaf people can always read lips phenomenally well? The retarded characters in this movie are the same way. They’re savvy, quick-witted, sagacious and full of insightful wisdom. The only thing “mentally handicapped” about them is the funny way they talk and dress and shuffle around!”

— and then says this:

Your comments of this movie tell me that you truly don’t know anything about the topic that you are reviewing. [Actually, the topic I’m reviewing is the movie, and I do know a thing or two about it, since I, you know, watched it.] I have not yet seen the movie, so I have no idea how well or poorly it is put together. However your comment I quoted above shows me that you haven’t any clue about “retarted” people as you say. [I assure you, I never said “retarted.”] Many developmentally delayed people are exactly as you described if people were to let them get close enough to know them even just a little. They just have to do this while over coming many things that “normal” people such as yourself would probably never be able to handle. -and usually lump into a weird category because they walk a bit differently, talk a bit differently. Do you have even an inkling why? No you could probably care less – right.

Being a person with intellectual disability, the new term being thrown around out there, or as people who have no time for anyone in this category usually says retarded people, doesn’t mean they are empty and witless. Come on before you become the expert on a topic at least know a tiny bit about the subject you are talking about and don’t just base is on the stereotype that the world holds.

Give me a break.

“Before you become the expert on a topic at least know a tiny bit about the subject you are talking about” is very good advice. Therefore, I urge Linda to get back to me once she has actually seen the movie.

Yes, of course there are many mentally handicapped people who are highly functional and who are barely different from anyone else. But they still aren’t like the characters in this movie. The only way we know these characters are retarded is from the way they dress, walk and talk — the stereotypes that Linda probably doesn’t like. They are not like real-life mentally handicapped people; they’re not like real-life people of any kind!

As for my use of the word “retarded” in the review, it was an aesthetic choice. I had to use something to describe the characters several times, and saying “mentally handicapped” each time would have been unwieldy. So I varied it between “mentally handicapped,” “mentally challenged” and “retarded.” I did not use “intellectually disabled” or “developmentally delayed” because 1) I had never heard those terms before, and 2) they are outrageously P.C.

Next is my review of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” which has prompted several e-mails. First, “The Slackerman” disagrees with my criticism of the scene where Santa Claus shows up and gives everybody weapons:

If you’re going to gripe about something, you should try to be correct.

Go read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, again, and you’ll see that the children were visited by Santa Claus!!!

Oh, I know it’s in the book. But that’s more an explanation than an excuse. It’s weird in the book, and it’s even weirder when it happens, in full living color, in the movie.

Someone named Terry had a similar complaint:

The story would not have gone far without the gifts from Santa. Did you expect an x-box?

Read and understand the book.

I did both a) read and b) understand the book, and I get that the gifts prove to be useful later in the story. But again, that doesn’t make it not weird.

What’s Santa doing in the story anyway? The whole thing is a Christian allegory, with Aslan representing Christ. Yet the characters celebrate Christmas, which means Jesus existed in their world, too. Yet they never MENTION Jesus or Christianity, nor do they notice how directly their experiences parallel the story of Jesus. When Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund’s sins and then is resurrected, nobody says, “Hey! That’s just like what Jesus did! You know, Jesus, whose birthday we celebrated a couple days ago when Santa Claus showed up and gave us crossbows.”

But back to my point: Just because something was “in the book” doesn’t mean one is not valid in criticizing its presence in the movie. Many films omit troublesome or puzzling aspects of their source material, particularly when it would be difficult to successfully translate those elements to film. Whether Santa’s visit is inherently weird or whether the filmmakers just didn’t do a good enough job de-weirding it, I couldn’t say.

Finally, we have this very special e-mail from a reader named Kirsten. She writes:

Hi! I think you could of rated~ The Chronicles of Narnia-The Lion,The Witch and the Wardrobe higher. I dont know about your reviews but i think it could of been much higher. It is a beautiful story that represents christ. It is about 4 children that are sent off to the professor’s home because of the Blitz in WWll. There they find themselvees in a wonderful world led by a wardrobe. Narnia. The land is full of action. While Aslan, the great lion, creates spring. He takes winter away that is powered by the white witch. This story is full of action, love, and a great sacrifice. I don’t know about you, but i would rate it much higher.

I do know about me, and I would rate it much lower. But thank you for the recap nonetheless. I think Kirsten is probably a very young person, so I will remark only that she seems very sweet, and good for her for sharing her opinion with others.

That does it for Eric’s Sack of Mail. Keep those cards and letters coming! And don’t forget your friend Mr. Spellcheck!

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